• Let's Review: Friends Forever #20


    No one can tell you what Friends Forever is. You have to experience it for yourself.

    But that won't stop me from at least talking about it. Let's dive back into the library with an issue featuring Discord, Princess Luna, and a lot of insanity.

    Check out the full review after the break, but watch out for the spoiler code. It can appear anywhere!

     

    Luna and Discord starring in a comic together. That sentence alone would be enough to sell this comic. Yet one cannot coast on adoration alone. How did this story shape up?

    Slapped on the first page.
    Usually he can at least make it to page five.

    With Discord being involved, there seem to be two artistic routes. One is to draw him in extreme poses filled with energy or surrounded by a setting that highlights his craziness. The second is to mimic pop culture references using his chaos powers as a means. Brenda Hickey employs both methods, which I enjoy. Of the two, I enjoy Discord being crazy on his own strength rather than relying on references. It matches him as a character.

    Can we get that service over-the-counter?

    The settings for Discord and Luna's journey are a treat. Part of the early fun is seeing how ponies react to this assault upon their sanity. Within a single page we're witness to most ponies reacting to one of Discord's sleep walks. 

    My personal favorite is Applejack being farmed by an apple.

    I always hope that Discord issues give the artists and writers a sense of freedom. Not everything has to make sense or match the traditional look. Though I suppose it's also a balancing act. How far out can you go before charmingly weird becomes incomprehensible? 

    I'm afraid, and I don't even know what he said.
    It's how he said it...

    I talk a lot about Discord because, while this is a Friends Forever issue, it's mostly about his own struggle. Luna does not get to show her best until the issue's end. Until then, she is more a proxy for the audience, chasing Discord through his own dreamscape and trying to make sense of a chaotic mind. 

    I want to shake that snowglobe, but that would 
    cause an earthquake for the city. So conflicted!

    Seems Discord is sleep walking and casting chaos all about Ponyville. Celestia asserts that sleepwalking is a sign of nightmares. This prompted me to do some checking online. Sleep walking often occurs during the non-REM stage. That is to say, a sleepwalker is not acting out their dreams because they are not truly dreaming. There are other conditions that may blur this line, but for Celestia's assertion I'll have to dock some points for realism. Now, let's continue talking about this comic where a magical horse princess goes into the dreams a composite creature. 

    Makes me wonder if Celestia is speaking from first-hoof experience?

    Describing Discord's dreams would be a disservice. This is something that deserves a full reading. Instead, I want to focus on my first impressions versus what I realize reading it again much later. When I first read this, the impression I got was the Discord feared being confined. He flees from rigid ponies and envisions Celestia–the ultimate authority in the land–as a jailer for his cubicle cell. 

    I think she makes that business suit look better
    than her Equestria Girls' counterpart.

    Time has changed my view, thanks in part to stories that came later. We're treated to some short vignettes of Discord making life miserable for the Mane Six, often satirizing other shows. I don't know many stories that can parody both fashion reality TV and The Odd Couple. I wondered back in the day if they didn't show him tormenting Applejack due to page constraints or if they couldn't think a good scenario. Now I wonder if we already saw that back in Friends Forever #2, where Discord nearly swallowed Sweet Apple Acres in a chaos bubble. 

    Chaos spells are disastrous for property value.

    It's the dream with Fluttershy and the CMC that turns everything on its ear. In both talking with Luna at journey's start and owning up to his fears, Discord tries to present himself as a force of nature. He can't control the outcome even though he fears it. Funny thing is that he's not the only character to make this assertion. Remember the Storm King's self pep-talk? 

    No shirt can contain my awesomeness!
    I am the James T. Kirk of My Little Pony!

    It's a funny contrast and something that sparked an idea. The Storm King hyped himself as a force of nature to inflate his self-worth. To prove to himself that he was greater than even his physical self. Discord compares himself to a force of nature, but it's with regret. As if his very nature will prevent him from living up to those for whom he cares. 

    I think he was worried when he got petrified. Twice.

    That's when it hit me: Discord isn't afraid of being chained to an office or holding a steady job. He's afraid that when given responsibility, he won't measure up. In a lot of ways he's a scared child, as depicted in one of his transformations.

    That's so adorably tragic!

    Even in his nightmare with manager Celestia, he can't be there for those he cares about nor can he fulfill the job. It's a great expression of his character and how he feels like having connections is making him weaker. This is an idea I see expressed a lot in good vs evil stories: the idea that having bonds or emotions weakens a person. The villains say it makes the protagonists weak. The heroes see it as as strength. I think bonds and emotions demand effort, but that effort yields greater long-term benefits. Ignoring people and only caring about oneself is quick and frighteningly easy, but the price is stagnation. Discord is becoming more than he was, and that's not an easy, smooth, or calm process. 

    Just don't try to do a Care Bear Stare.
    That does not end well.

    Luna is the one to voice this and she too undergoes a change, though she's not the focus here. At story's start she doesn't trust Discord, seeing him also as a force that is in opposition to all she and Celestia represent. Though she's mostly chasing Discord throughout the story, even she gets in on the humor and has some fun moments. More than that, seeing Discord's fears makes him more a person in her eyes, and thus she is able to form a connection. She relates her own experience and admits to her own weaknesses, trusting him after he offered a glimpse into his own fears. 

    I wish more philosophical debates could take this form.
     
    This comic is in my top 10 favorites for the series. It doesn't place higher because I still think the best Friends Forever stories share the spotlight and show the bond form. This is primarily a Discord story with a shining moment for Luna near the end. Yet it does stress the bond they develop and offers some excellent character insights. Couple that with fun visuals, references and self-contained humor, and some nice continuity and I consider this a joy. 

    Oh my gosh! The explosion stretched Rarity's maw!

    Give it a read and experience the chaotic friendship!

    Even Discord is powerless before the Royal Canterlot Voice!

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading! 

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